Can you imagine being five years old and having three cops bend you over a desk, handcuff you and then carry you out of your school in handcuffs? Can you imagine being face down on the floor, hands behind you, some cops knee on your neck; then to have that knee migrate to your back just to, ultimately, be shot dead while facedown? Can you imagine being shot (REPEATEDLY) while peacefully sitting in your car? For many of us, these situations seem unrealistic, but for many Black and Latino youths in (or around) the United States, these experiences are all too REAL.
Living while being Black or Brown (LWB) in (or around) the United States is DANGEROUS because you never know if an officer sees you as a citizen or a troublemaker needing handcuffs, a steel bullet or a taste of electric current. It should come as no surprise that for Black (79 %), Hispanic (73%) and White (63%) youth (ages 15-25), the overwhelming majority believe that the police discriminate against Black youth much more than they do White youth. Beyond the comparison between white and black, there is urgent need to broadcast the realities that many Black and Brown youth find themselves confronted with on a daily basis.
In Florida, the consequence of LWB starts at age 5. Three WHITE police officers bend a five year old Black little girl over a desk. They handcuffed her and escorted her to the back of their squad car. A precious five year old black child hollering “No don’t do this,” and her principal, by extension her school, stood by and did nothing. This story symbolizes the intimate nature in which the government’s hand effectively shapes the contours of black young people’s feelings of being seen as criminal. At five, to be ushered out of your school in front of your peers, teachers and others as a criminal, what else could the child think of herself or about the people who are supposed to protect her from harm?
From child- to adult-hood, we find black and brown bodies cast under the irresistibly destructive wheel of (in)justice. We all know the story of Sean Bell who was deprived of his life by officers of the law. We add to that tragedy, the story of Oscar Grant being murdered by an officer of the law in Oakland, while he laid face down under the boots of officers. In both these cases, the murderers went free and by all my measurements woefully un(der)punished! Moreover, what does it say about us as black and brown people that children, men, women and transgender people can be so easily mistreated and there aren’t riots, protest and FORCED mass institutional change?
Along the border we share with Mexico, a border patrol officer murdered a 15 year old boy for throwing rocks at him. I hope you see a common theme beyond just the race of the offending officers (DON’T GET IT TWISTED Black and Latino officers take aim too). I hope you see that in each of these three examples we are made patently aware of the value of black and brown people’s lives.
Finally, let me say that I have several black men, who serve as officers of the law, in my family; therefore, I don’t think every police officer is a raging xenophobic, homophobic, racist, and sexist killer. Moreover, I cherish the great job that many officers of the law do, and the sense of safety they provide to law-abiding citizens, which I count myself among. I, however, recognize that there are problems among (arguably too many to be considered) a few of the man and women who protect and serve.